Tag Archives: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards Wanted Nice, Expensive Editions

Jonathan Yeager tells Thomas Kidd about the great puritan preacher’s desires for the appearance of his work in print. No doubt, he would have loved today’s world of easy publishing.

Edwards was a meticulous author, and wanted his books to look a certain way. He was not the best judge on how his books should be printed, if the purpose was for them to sell well. Edwards wanted his books to have wide margins, generous line spacing, and to be printed on fine paper, with good type, and priced affordably. The model for Edwards was his book Misrepresentations Corrected, published in 1752. Ironically, Misrepresentations Corrected was his worst-selling book! A key reason, I believe, was that it was not economically printed. If a printer allows the use of wide margins and generous line spacing, it follows that it would require more pages, and therefore would be more costly.

Edwards vocalized his disgust with the way that his book Religious Affections was published in 1746, probably because it was concisely printed, with tightly cropped margins and line spacing. Despite his complaints, the printer for this book feared that he had not printed enough copies to meet public demand. In an advertisement at the end of the book, the Boston printer Samuel Kneeland remarked that some 1,300 subscriptions had been taken for Religious Affections, at a time when a colonial author would have rejoiced if 500 copies of a book sold.

Comparing Generations: Edwards vs. Jukes

Jared posted a couple myth busters a few days ago. The word sincere, he explains, did not come from the marketing language of Roman potters, as you may have been told, and Jesus actually talked about heaven more than hell, though he talked about hell a good bit.

Along that lines, I have a good source on an illustration I’ve read a few times and appears to have grown into a fish story. Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s best theologians, had many godly or otherwise productive children, grandchildren, and so on. Comparing his family to that of another man who lived at the same time is meant to illustrate the fruit of a godly life. Here’s the account from an article by Leonard Ravenhill:

A thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, it seems to me, keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edwards.

“O Lord of hosts, turn us again; cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved.”

Contrast this great man of God with his contemporary. I quote from Al Sanders in Crisis in Morality!

Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars.

But, praise the Lord, it works both ways! There is a record of a great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. ‘The memory of the just is blessed’ (Prov. 10:7).

To us this is the conclusion of the whole matter.

This is a better account than the one I’ve seen more often, but the details are not as accurate as they should be. According to the March 8, 1902, issue of The School Journal, the numbers vary a bit.

Suffice it to say, “The almost universal traits of the ‘Jukes’ were idleness, ignorance, and vulgarity. These characteristics led to disease and disgrace, to pauperism and crime. They were a disgustingly diseased family as a whole. There were many imbeciles and many insane.”

My version of the story says Jukes’ name is the origin of the word juke, meaning “to fake or deceive.” No, it wasn’t. It’s from a word meaning “wicked, disorderly” in a Southern English creole.

This is not so much a busted myth as a clarification. I hope I have edified you.

The Fervent Exercise of the Heart

America’s greatest theologian, Johnathan Edwards, was born on this day in 1703. From his work Religious Affections, he wrote:

. . . who will deny that true religion consists, in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart. That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull and lifeless wouldings, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his Word, greatly insists upon it, that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion: “Be ye fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). . . . ‘Tis such a fervent, vigorous engagedness of the heart in religion, that is the fruit of a real circumcision of the heart, or true regeneration, and that has the promises of life; “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deut. 30:6). If we ben’t in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing.

Jonathan Edwards

Today, October 5, 1703, the great Jonathan Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut. He became one of the great preachers and thinkers of the Christian church, ranking up there with Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and St. Augustine. He is probably the best Christian minister America has ever nurtured. In an article for World Magazine, Cultural Editor Gene Edward Veith writes,

“Edwards’ influence went beyond theology. His understanding of the beauty of nature and its connection to its Creator bore fruit in the magnificent landscape paintings of the Hudson River artists. His awareness of the limits and the sinfulness of human nature is evident in the fiction of Hawthorne and Melville, with its awareness of the darkness that dwells in the human heart. His rehabilitation of Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers made them palatable to the American Founders, who used them, in a Christian way, to forge the constitutional republic.”

This fact may be what has endeared me to Edwards since I was in high school. I’ve often thought that I would be blessed if I understood little more than Edwards’ life and teaching. I’m not sure that I’ve thought this for more than a few minutes at a time, especially since I’ve done nothing to back it up. Similarly, I’ve admired Nathaniel Hawthorne for years without a fully developed reason, that is, without a reason I can articulate. I guess I’m just a poser, a pseudo-intellectual, a plebian.

Doubtless, the sermon included in many American literature anthologies, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is beautiful. “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at [the unbeliever’s] heart and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with [the unbeliever’s] blood.” Goodness! Edwards’ delivered that kind of language in an even, quiet tone.

But that certainly wasn’t his only message. In my barely readable anthology (I don’t think the publishers of my two-volume set seriously believed buyers would read them; encyclopedias are more readable than this), the sermon prior to the one above is “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” which is, as I understand Edwards, the essential message of his ministry. John Piper said it this way, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Ah, that is refreshing. Not politically correct, not egocentric, totally unacceptable in today’s colleges, but wonderfully relevant and fulfilling.